‘Pledge’ Questions the Horrors of Toxic Masculinity and College Social Life

Greek life is a quintessential part of the American college experience. Fraternities and sororities are known for their cult-like behavior, wild parties, and questionable hazing rituals. But rather than questioning this strange societal obsession, it has been widely accepted, and even encouraged because these groups encourage close friendships and offer the promise of potential professional connections. Fraternities are central to teen comedies, from Animal House to Neighbors— they are familiar sight and are the epitome of being a cool guy. But behind closed frat house doors, horrors can unfold. David Robbins’ Pledge captures those horrors, taking what is seen as a normal part of growing up, and pushes it to its gory, terrifying extreme — toxic masculinity is on the chopping block in Pledge. Bordering on torture porn, it questions the forms of masculinity we covet and what that means for anyone that does not fall into that very specific category.

Pledge begins with three awkward college freshmen who, in varying degrees, want nothing more than to rush a fraternity. Rushing means they will be accepted into a sacred brotherhood of booze and hot women. But unfortunately, these boys don’t fit the typical fraternity bill. They aren’t tall or muscular with perfectly-gelled blonde hair, their jokes fall flat, they have no rhythm, and they can’t stomach shots of liquor in rapid succession. They are mercilessly mocked and kicked out of every frat house they enter. Just when they are about to give up hope and resign themselves to a lonely college experience, they’re invited to another kind of rush party. It’s for a social club, which is believed to be much more elite. This all sounds like a setup in a Judd Apatow movie, where the boys will run into a series of hilarious sexual exploits. But then, the sinister undertones start rolling in.

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